Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Struggle!

Go over to Ballast Films and check out Bryan Wizemann video about a arguement he had with his wife about film. It got to me, and I can understand how Sabina (Wizemann's wife) feels.

A film career is anything but stable, and having a family is a hard balance when both film & family compete with each other. Personally I could never do the balancing act, and I've always thought family first. Also if you get a chance head on over to

I'd be curious to know how the filmmaker and his wife are now, and if they've resolved the career choices of each other.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Where do I start. I'm a Quentin Tarantino fan, and at the same time I have mixed feelings about this film. First off I have to say that my father served on the other side, and though he had nothing good to say about it I did hear some of his stories. They were all gruesome and none of them were happy stories. Tarantino's film makes every German a Nazi. This is just too simplistic for me. I know this is only a film, but films like "Saving Private Ryan", "Letters from Iwo Jima" and "Enemy at the Gates" truly depict the horrors of war. Tarantino's film does not. Sure he shows the gruesome details of the kill, but it's for shock effect, and no more. I like Tarantino's style, and have always thought of him as a skilled filmmaker, and a lover of cinema and I mean ALL cinema. The opening scene of the film is quite good and unnerving. His actors play over the top and it suits the film.

How Tarantino weaves his story lines is also fascinating, but then this is film is about revenge, and I really think the Tarantino has covered this theme already in his "Kill Bill" films. I saw the film with a very older crowd, and a lot winced at the violence, but all I can say is that people HATED the villain here. Christoph Waltz plays Nazi Colonel Hans Landa to a tee. The character drips evil, and vial all over the screen, and it does look like Waltz is having some fun. The same could be said about Brad Pitt also in his portrayal of Lieutenant Aldo Raine. Pitt seems to be enjoying the character, and watching these two on screen is highly entertaining. Which brings me to the length of this film. Clocking in at 2 hours and 33 minutes the film does move. There is a lot of talk in the film all in German or French, and there are a lot of sub-titles. I must say I'm a fast reader, but even I was challenged to keep up. Hey at least the critics can't say that the Germans had bad accents here.

If your a Tarantino fan you'll see this film no matter what, but if you're put off by sub-titled movies you may not like it as much. I had no problem with the sub-titles, but some may. Just a fair warning.

What gave me a problem and I believe this is purely an emotional one on my part was that of every German in the film was a Nazi. Having heard the horror stories of the Third Reich from family I would have liked to see a bit more truth depicted in this world war two movie. I know it's a send up to some B-movies of the 60's, but the central idea that all Germans were Nazi's just didn't sit well with me and really isn't true historically. The characters are black & white, and there is not much depth to them. Tarintino gives us a German soldier (Til Schweiger) who has killed many Nazis and he is enlisted into the basterds. There is only a brief back story about him, and that's it. I have no clue on why this man is the way he is and it seems neither does Tarantino. To me the character is added just to increase the body count. Maybe everybody else wants to think of this film as more then just a B-movie on steroids, but honestly that's all it is. I also found Tarantino's re-writing of World War 2 offensive, and really dumb. Yes it's great to see Hitler get machined gun and riddled with bullets, but that's not what happened, and it's gore for gore sake.

So can I recommend this film? Not really. For the cinema lover maybe, but otherwise I think Tarantino can do a lot better, and as Lieutenant Aldo Raine says at the end of the movie with a nod and a wink to Tarantino "I believe this is one of my best works ever".

Don't bet on it Mr. Tarantino! But I still look forward to your next one.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

GI-Joe (2009)

Okay before you say another word yes I payed to see this. I have a seven year old boy who seems to like action flicks, so I was destined to see it. I loved GI-Joe when I was growing up, and a lot of the time those GI-Joe's with the kung fu grip became my actors in some pretty primitive stop motion action. But that was a different Joe. The GI-JOE I remember were adventurers and protectors. There was NO Cobra to fight against. I believe only in the 80's did that come about, and then the action figures went from 12 inches tall to mini-action hero's.

No more kung fu grip or fuzzy type hair or beard. So Paramount pictures has me in their cross-hairs, and since I've got two boys it's all about the merchandising. I can only thank that my youngest isn't fazed by the JOE franchise. He'll stick to his dinosaurs thank you. But my oldest well he certainly is caught in the hype, and his favorite is of course Snake Eyes who is played by Ray Park.

So did I loath this film or did I like it? I can't say it was horrible. What I didn't like was that the movie was or is trying so hard to make sure that there is a second JOE movie in its future. That I felt a little too forced and didn't buy the plot lines as much. There are some character developments in the film, but not too much. I like what Marlon Wayans did to the character of Ripcord, and what Rachel Nichols did for the character Shana 'Scarlett' O'Hara. Sienna Miller looks fantastic, and does a pretty good job here too. I was a bit surprised at the love angle they took here between Duke and the Baroness. Guess they had to warm it up for the ladies in the audience. Duke is played by Channing Tatum and he's a bit wooden, but again he looks good. Other players which I wanted more from was from Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje who plays Heavy Duty, and Byung-hun Lee who plays Storm Shadow. It seemed that the writers could have gone into more detail about these characters and given the GI-JOE team some depth.

DEPTH! You say? Why isn't this an overgrown live action cartoon? In a way yes, but remember it's audience. My son marveled at the JOE's equipment, and his favorite was the Sigma suits, which accelerated the person using it. Listen some critics have labeled the special effects cheesy, but actually I thought they weren't too bad.

Listen I'm not saying GI-JOE is high cinema, but it is some FUN entertainment, and watching my boys watching the movie made me feel good. Yes it has gun's and it is violent, but I try to explain all of it. The movie leaves you a bit hanging, and does leave you with some questions, but I'm sure that's on purpose. Paramount is trying to build a franchise, and I see no problem with that. I just hope that they get writers who fully love the world of GI-JOE and take it to the next level. The movie shows promise for a franchise I just hope the studios don't mess it up.

If you want a good time and have nephews or sons that like action hero's I don't see how you can't pass this movie up. It's fun.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

DIY Days - Esther Robinson: Building a Creative Foundation

Here's the lecture that Ms Robinson gave, which I found inspiring. The lifetime of work is so true, and I love this phrase:

"Build your future, and not deny your existence".

Take a listen to it, and tell me if I'm not right. Listening to it again I'm inspired. Thanks Ms Robinson!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Tapeless Terror

I just read an article by Fred Olen Ray about his latest film which is directed by his son Christopher Douglas Olen Ray. It's an interesting article about what camera he used and what problems he first encountered in using a consumer-pro type of camera.

If the name doesn't sound familiar Mr. Ray's film have played theaters, late night TV, and lately Syfy. He is also author of a book called "The New Poverty Row" from McFarland, which is pretty inspiring.

Check out for the article, or just click on the link "Tapeless Terror".

I think you'll get some useful info about it. Check it out. Figured I pass it on.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

DIY - Philadelphia (Part 1)

So yesterday the heavens stayed clear, and we even got some sun out of the deal, and what do I do but spend it in a lecture hall. But all was good. TheDIY - Philadelphia conference went on at the University of the Arts downtown in Philly, and there was a good turn-out of people.

Why did I go to a DIY - conference when I already did it myself? Well to put it simple one film is not enough, and as the DIY mantra is: Fund, Create, Distribute, Sustain. There were some interesting individuals who gave some interesting lectures. Esther Robinson of Arthome gave an interesting lecture on Clarity & fearlessness. In her lecture she told it like it is, and that credit can be a GOOD thing. An interesting statement she said was "build your future & don't deny your existence." I think it was something like that. Lance Weiler was there too talking about his experiences, and what he's doing. Mr. Weiler had some interesting thoughts, and he seemed to be running the show as well, so he as a busy guy.

Douglas Rushkoff also gave a fantastic key-note address, and it made me think about how we tell stories in general. Nina Paley was also there and she gave us a breakdown on her film "Sita Sings the Blues" where she released the film FREE. Yep! That's right she released a film free, and strangely enough is making money off it. I swear Ms Paley I'll buy a DVD next paycheck.

I'll probably blog a bit more about all this since I have a lot of material from the conference, and I'm still digesting it all. I kind of stayed in the background and just listened. I did have some DVD's of my film, but I didn't see a point. I know the realities of DIY, and though I think it's great I do think you need to have $$$$ in the first place to launch your film. The reality is that there is so much out there and a film like mine seems to have a hard time competing with everything out there. Maybe it's because I don't yell loud enough or often enough, but as one speaker said yesterday it's hard to stretch yourself. Between the day gig, family and other things it's difficult to stay on top of what you need to do for your project. So that's my problem in a nut shell.

Yet I was still jazzed at seeing other filmmakers like myself at the conference. I mean there's a whole lot of us, and that's important to know. I do have a problem with the insular way these types of groups form. I know that it was an academic facility that was hosting the conference, but I wanted more DIY grunts as I call them. People doing their own thing from outside of academia. There are a lot of artists who are doing it, but the problem is that we are isolated in our art. Esther Robinson said it in her lecture that it is "dangerous to work as a project by project culture". I whole heartily agree. Such realities as rent, health insurance, mortgages for some, and the daily grinds of everyday life can be disheartening to an artist and can take the wind out of any creative persons sails.

That's why I would have liked a bit more everyday reality projected into the conference. Hey but maybe some other time. I still think it's a good foot forward idea, and it's great to see and hear other creative people coming together and talking to each other. Can't wait to do it again.